In Canon 8 of the Council of Nicaea – held in 325 – it states that

As for the so-called cathari, if they return to the catholic and apostolic church, the great and holy council decrees that any of them who are ordained may remain among the clergy.

Are these the Donatists? This clearly can't be the 12th/13th century sect. The rest of the canon seems to imply so but it isn't quite clear to me.


1 Answer 1


The relevant text of the canones from the Nicean Council of 325 is as follows:

Canon VIII.
Concerning those who call themselves Cathari,
if they come over to the Catholic and Apostolic Church, the great and holy Synod decrees that they who are ordained shall continue as they are in the clergy. But it is before all things necessary that they should profess in writing that they will observe and follow the dogmas of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; in particular that they will communicate with persons who have been twice married, and with those who having lapsed in persecution have had a period [of 20 penance] laid upon them, and a time [of restoration] fixed so that in all things they will follow the dogmas of the Catholic Church. Wheresoever, then, whether in villages or in cities, all of the ordained are found to be of these only, let them remain in the clergy, and in the same rank in which they are found. But if they come over where there is a bishop or presbyter of the Catholic Church, it is manifest that the Bishop of the Church must have the bishop’s dignity; and he who was named bishop by those who are called Cathari shall have the rank of presbyter, unless it shall seem fit to the Bishop to admit him to partake in the honour of the title. Or, if this should not be satisfactory, then shall the bishop provide for him a place as Chorepiscopus, or presbyter, in order that he may be evidently seen to be of the clergy, and that there may not be two bishops in the city.

— Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol. XIV, The Canons of the 318 Holy Fathers Assembled in the City of Nice (sic), in Bithynia.. In: Early Church Fathers. direct link

In this version we do not see any medieval sect, but we simply see an endonym of Greek origin meaning 'the pure ones', referencing a grouping adequate for the timing of the council. But this really means in an adapted-for-convenience reading of the canones on Wikipedia:

  1. provision for agreement with the Novatianists, an early sect

As in:

After Novatian Novatian's strict views existed before him and may be found in The Shepherd of Hermas. After his death, the Novatianist sect spread rapidly and could be found in every province and were very numerous in some places. Those who allied themselves with his doctrines were called Novatianists, but they called themselves καθαροι ("katharoi") or "Purists" (not to be confused with the later Cathars) to reflect their desire not to be identified with what they considered the lax practices of a corrupted and what was hitherto a universal Church.

  • It may avoid confusion to state that 'twice married' on this context means a second marriage after the death of the first spouse. The novatianists were against this.
    – Luiz
    Jul 29, 2022 at 19:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.